Covid-19 crisis looms large over music festivals: Most postponed, some going virtual, but artists, fans & organisers are hopeful

Updated on Nov 09, 2020 01:09 PM IST

Music festival organisers and musicians talk about how the crisis has affected the music scene and has been a crushing blow to independent artistes, who look forward to such events for visibility, earning and making more contacts for future work.

Singer Hariharan during his performance at NH7 Weekender last year.
Singer Hariharan during his performance at NH7 Weekender last year.
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The much anticipated Sunburn Festival in Goa has now been rescheduled, “new dates” are yet to be announced. Much like Sunburn, the Covid-19 crisis has led to many such festivals in India and abroad being cancelled or postponed to next year— from Tomorrowland (Belgium), Coachella and its country music offshoot, Stagecoach (both in California), to Ziro Festival of Music and Orange Festival of Adventure & Music (both in Arunachal Pradesh). The scene is definitely not encouraging for music lovers and artistes.

“The pandemic has affected the entire ecosystem. And music industry is one of the worst hit industries. Artistes and audience look forward to such events every year… such festivals aren’t just about music, but also about meeting new people, trying local cuisine, exploring the destination and holidaying. It helps in boosting tourism and many other businesses,” says Anup Kutty, one of the organisers of Ziro that gets a footfall up to 8,000 in all four days. ZIRO will be held in September 2021.

 

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 Kobyum Zirdo, head coordinator, Orange Festival, shares they’re getting endless queries on whether there’s a possibility of the fest happening with limited groups. “But it isn’t. Our 7th edition is only happening on December 2021. Thankfully our organisers and fans are understanding,” adds Zirdo.

The scenario has affected independent musicians more given that such fests help them earn, give them visibility and connections for future work.

“Unlike established musicians who’re somehow surviving these times are difficult for independent artistes who wait throughout the year to perform in such festivals,” says singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan, who has performed in Weekender earlier. Echoing a similar opinion rapper Kr$na shares many of these artist have gone jobless.

Well, in search of some positivity amid these unpredictable times and to open up a few doors, NH7 Weekender is going virtual in December. ZIRO, though partially, is collaborating with FOCUS Wales 2020 for a virtual showcase this month. As per sources, Sunburn is contemplating going online, but there is no confirmation yet.

DJ-host Nikhil Chinapa, who has been a part of various music festivals, opines that virtual has evolved “as a new and viable business for the industry”.

“It needs a lot of work and development though, both on the platform and the artist sides. The entertainment industry is first-out-last-in in situations like this. It’s amongst the hardest hit and we have no idea when things will return to “normal”… we all are trying to adapt and cope,” he adds.

According to Gunjan Arya, organiser of NH7 Weekender, online seemed to the way forward, “NH7 Weekender like most music festivals is a very visceral experience and we’re trying to make it as interesting as it could be online. Since such festival is to be enjoyed with friends, we would’ve virtual rooms for friends to chat and enjoy performances together. There are watch parties, private chat rooms, direct fan and artiste interactions and more. If fans appreciate this, we might continue online experience and on ground festival in a hybrid way.”

Rapper Krsna, singer -composer Shankar Mahadevan and DJ-host Nikhil Chinapa talk about the effect of the pandemic on music festivals.
Rapper Krsna, singer -composer Shankar Mahadevan and DJ-host Nikhil Chinapa talk about the effect of the pandemic on music festivals.

 While Mahadevan feels nothing matches live experience, Kr$na, who performed in Sunburn last year and is a part of Weekender’s this year, is excited.

“These festivals are not just about music but the entire feel of the nature, people, food, destination... If I want to hear artistes like Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock perform I might log in, but the satisfaction won’t be same. But I understand things can only happen online now,” says Mahadevan.

Kr$na ends on a positive note, “Finally we’ll be able to take the stage, though the scenario is different but something is better than nothing. Hopefully next year things will be better.”

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Author tweets @Shreya_MJ

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Shreya Mukherjee is a senior content producer at Hindustan Times. She has spent over eight years covering entertainment, features and hard-news. When not writing, her passion for travel, literature, films and music gets her going.

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